the play for this program, the venetian twins by carlo goldoni. now, your host, mr. jose ferrer. comedy wears many masks. it's a term that can be used to describe a series of jokes or an incident or a whole dramatic genre. in fact, the word comedy is used in so many ways that a single definition is difficult, if not impossible to make. still, it's something we want, even need to experience whether with a quiet smile or an out-and-out belly laugh. when we turn to the purpose of comedy, we find some agreement, for always at its core, there is a spirit of fun, which delights,
amuses and entertains. usually, there is a companion word with comedy, which helps to describe its thrust such as situation, romantic, social or farcical, satirical. often, it's discussed according to levels: low comedy, high comedy. on the highest level, there is the comedy of ideas or comedy of manners with emphasis on language and wit. for instance, the plays of jonson, congreve, wilde and shaw. on the lowest level, there is physical comedy such as is found in burlesque and farce, with emphasis on a madcap situation and fast-paced, highly visual action. the plays of goldoni, goldsmith, sheridan and even the keystone kops or tom and jerry cartoons come to mind. the venetian twins represents the more physical or situation comedy. it evolved from the commedia dell'arte tradition. in the commedia, there were no written scripts,
only scenarios, and the actors improvised their dialogue and bits of stage business as they performed. in this connection, it might be appropriate for me to recall something that i actually witnessed on the broadway stage. the great zero mostel was starring in a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. and the night that i saw the performance, he decided to pick on a young man who was a member of the chorus and who was well-known in the company, as i later on found out, for breaking up, that is to say, being made to laugh easily on the stage. zero was incorrigible and he decided to make a victim of this young man that night. and during the scene, when the young man was playing a soldier in the army of miles gloriosus, zero stopped the action of the scene and went to work on him making faces and dancing around him and posturing and clowning
till the poor young man was almost reduced to tears in his effort to keep a straight face, because in the professional theater, it's considered very bad form, indeed, to break up or laugh onstage. finally, the scene came to an end, but a couple of scenes later, this young man who, as a member of the chorus, was called upon to play several parts, came back on the stage playing a different character. zero again stopped the action of the scene, went over to him, stood in front of him, put his face about three inches from the young man's face, stared at him for what seemed an eternity and finally said, "say, don't you have a brother in the army?" now, i mentioned this incident because it illustrates very graphically the kind of thing that happened throughout the play in the days of the commedia dell'arte. [music]
commedia dell'arte was a type of improvised drama popular first in italy and then throughout europe from the middle of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th century. the commedia dell'arte troupes developed into professional acting companies who traveled from village to city, performing a borrowed plot scenario and embellishing it with personalized antics, acrobatics and stage business. the scenario was built around a basic situation or a loosely structured dramatic idea
with stock character types, such as doctor, captain, father, lover, servant. each character could be identified by the mask and costume which a player developed within the bounds of the fixed character type. the doctor became traditionally an elderly, black-robed lawyer or a pedant in half mask. arlecchino, or harlequin, became traditionally the mischievous servant, clad in brightly-colored diamond shapes and matching half mask. what an elegant little fellow. tell me, beautiful maiden, are you acquainted with a certain signor zanetto bisognosi? over the years, the stock characters developed the more physical and farcical elements of their characters until eventually, these characterizations degenerated into crude examples of shallow theatrical tricks.
very well. and her maid, do you know her? oh, if it's her you want, i am she. what? you are signorina colombina. i am colombina. do you know who i am? i have no idea. arlecchino-- - you, arlecchino? - me. - my husband. - my bride. - but you're nice. - but you're pretty. - what a lovely surprise. - what a relief. when did you arrive? ah, ah, ah, one thing at a time. by mid-18th century, carlo goldoni sought to preserve the best in the commedia dell'arte tradition by replacing each improvised scenario with a fully scripted playbook, which refined the commedia plot, the stock characters and the traditional bits of business. in the venetian twins, one of carlo goldoni's earliest plays,
the stock characters are maintained in traditional costume. however, goldoni has eliminated the mask. it is significant that goldoni includes venice in this early play because he replaced the traveling wagons with a permanent theater building in venice. heaven keep you. the plot of the venetian twins is intricate and revolves around a favored commedia theme, mistaken identity. the twins, zanetto and tonino, are played by the same actor but are totally different in personality. zanetto is buffoonish, unsuccessful in matters of love but successful in money matters. tonino, while poor, is a great deal more personable and successful in all matters. neither has seen the other for years,
but as plot would have it, both arrive in verona, unbeknown to each other, and so the complications begin. one word more, friend, don't call me tonino. i don't want to be recognized. ah. call me zanetto. ah. each is mistaken for the other, and most of the characters find themselves in a constant stage of bewilderment. goldoni uses the device of the aside to keep us informed on the real thoughts and reactions of the characters. we watch the misunderstandings grow more complicated in this fast-paced, non-naturalistic comedy. this production of the venetian twins illustrates the conventions of the commedia dell'arte. it uses recognizable types or stock characters, including a mischievous servant, a buffoon, a young lover, a meddling father and a pompous pedant.
it emphasizes the artificiality of the play form by setting the actors in front of scenery obviously painted and cartoon-like. the characters' makeup and costumes are part of the decoration. there's an aura of gaiety, which asks us to forget reality and surrender ourselves to the comic spirit. [music] do hurry. the gentleman i'm to become engaged to will be here any minute. the gentleman i'm to become engaged to will be here any minute also. and i want to look my best. are you daring to compare yourself to me, you impudent little hussy? don't you speak to me like that, signorina, or you will regret it. why, you insolent thing. get up. get up. or i'll take a stick to you. huh? what's that? a stick to me? oh?
oh. my dear, you must make haste. your future husband, signor zanetto bisognosi, will be arriving anytime now. remember, i am to be married also to his servant, you promised? yes, yes. signore, signore. signor zanetto has arrived from bergamo. oh. praise me to heaven. oh, do tell me, brighella, what's he like? is he handsome? is he elegant? well, i'll you, signorina, as to handsome, he's not too bad. but, well, from what i've just seen of him, i think he must be a bit simple in the head, couldn't even get off his horse properly. this report does not please me much. there should be a certain arlecchino with signor zanetto. hmm? his servant? has he come? oh, no. he'll be along later with his master's luggage. i'm curious to see him. he is the one who is to possess your charms, isn't he? come. come on. come on in. that's right.
come in and make yourself at home. daughter, this is signor zanetto. ah. my bride to be. my respects to you. signore, i am your most humble servant. oh. she's the servant? good-looking girl. tell me, father-in-law, the bride, where is she? she's here. this is my daughter. this is the bride. she said she was the servant. no, signore. she said "i am your most humble servant" as a compliment, as a formality. oh. i understand. a bad beginning. oh, come now. don't give the matter another thought. signor zanetto, rest assured, i am so-- stop beating about the bush. i've come to verona to marry you. all i'm waiting for is arlecchino to arrive,
with my clothes, jewels and money. very well. i am your intended wife, am i? so why all this chitchat? take my hand. let's get it over with. what a strange behavior. my dear son-in-law, is it your wish to be married in this boorish way? now, say something to your bride-to-be. speak to her a little gracefully, a little lovely. you're right. i'm yours, all yours. i'm very pleased by that--that beautiful face that you've got. i would like to-- father-in-law, get out of here. you're making me shy. certainly. i shall wait upon you. be wise, daughter. he's a little foolish, but he's got money. with your permission, son-in-law. don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
so we are husband and wife. i hope we are to be. and we stand here like two dummies? what would you like to do? oh. oh, oh, that's good. husband and wife. but the marriage ceremony has not yet been performed. but what do you expect to get from a marriage ceremony? i expect to have the ceremonies, the solemnities. oh, let's speak plainly. do you accept me as your husband? yes, signore, i accept you. and i accept you as my wife. so what need's there for any ceremony? this is the most beautiful ceremony in the world. oh. you are in a great hurry. it's either now or never. but this is an insult to me. is it an insult to want to consummate our marriage? oh. good heavens. can't you wait one day? tell me, dearest one, these solemnities and ceremonies,
can't they wait till after the marriage? let's consummate the thing, and afterwards, we can go on with these ceremonies for a whole year, i won't complain. oh, signor zanetto, i think you are amusing yourself at my expense. of course, i want to amuse myself. well, in due time, you can. the proverb says there's no time like the present. don't keep me in suspense. i warn you. take your time. exactly. ooh. i'll take my time...now. oh, presumption. ooh. ooh. ooh. ooh. ooh. heavens, what an improper young man. we women should never be left alone with men. there's always some danger to be faced. whew. [music]
heaven keep you, my child. what's the matter? oh, signor pancrazio, if you knew what has just happened to me. reveal all to me freely. naturally, you can trust me completely. i will tell you, signore. you know, of course, that my father has decided that i'm to marry a venetian. what you do not know is the man's a fool, a presumptuous fool. presumption is only to be expected from foolish people. my father insisted on my speaking with him. bad. he actually left me all alone with him. still worse. and then this fellow... yes, yes. oh, i can imagine. ...in the most indecent words. smooth and glib, no doubt. yes, signore. then he attempted some immodesty?
- exactly. - continue. what took place? he offended me so much that i slapped his face. ooh. oh, what a good, what a wise, what an exemplary girl you are. oh, heroic hand. oh, illustrious and glorious hand. on this hand, allow me with reverence and admiration to imprint a kiss. it merits your approval then, the way i showed my resentment? oh, you must continue. you must go on slapping them in the face. you must accustom yourself to despising these young scoundrels. and if ever your heart decides to love, look for an object worthy of your love. you are right, signor pancrazio. - forgive my weakness. - ah. i will go tell my father i do not want such a man.
bravo! if i can't obtain rosaura by false virtue and pretended prudence, i can't hope to, that's certain. [music] i haven't got youth, good looks or money, but i've found a way. no, signorina beatrice, don't go. signor florindo, i must return to venice. but why this sudden decision? for six days, i've been waiting for signor tonino. some accident has kept him in venice. i simply must go and find out for myself. to return to venice, which you just fled on signor tonino's advice? no one will recognize me. no, signorina beatrice, signor tonino entrusted you to my protection. it is my duty to restrain you. my friendship with signor tonino demands nothing less, as does my love for you. i am determined to go. my heart tells me that i have lost my tonino. what good will there be in staying in verona? here perhaps you may find somebody who'll be convinced
of your worth, somebody who would take the place of your dear tonino. i am tonino's or no one's. still. if she stays here, and if her fiance doesn't turn up, little by little i could hope to win her. when he least expects it, i will flee from his protection. ah. oh. oh, here comes that affected dandy lelio forever running after you. heaven knows what would happen if i were not with you. most beautiful venetian, i've just heard from the post driver that you're yearning to return to venice. make use of me. i will give you a coach, horses, grooms, servants, as much money as you like, if you will give the pleasure of accompanying you. what presumptions. signore, permit me to ask, by what right you offer the signorina beatrice such things, when you can see that she's in my company? who are you, her brother, her relative or some fortune hunter? sir, i am a gentleman. i am, moreover, under obligation to look after this lady. well, then, friend, you're in a difficult situation. - and why? - because it takes more of a man than you are to look after a lady. signorina beatrice, give me your hand and let me be of service to you. come, let us go.
i told you to remember your manners. this, to me? to me, whom nobody has ever dared give an insolent glance. do you not know who i am? i'm the marquis lelio, lord of monte fresco, count of fonte chiara, magistrate of selva ambrosa. i have more estates than you hairs in that badly combed wig and more money than you'll ever see in your life. as if everybody didn't know him. calls himself count, marquis, ha, ha. when he's only the nephew of dr. balanzoni. either the lady comes with me or you'll fall victim of my anger. this lady is in my protection. in a minute, i reply with my sword. poor young man, i feel sorry for you. you want to die, is that it? signor florindo, do not endanger yourself with such a fellow. do not worry. i'll bring him down a peg or two. hold on to life. you're young. leave this lady to me. hold on to life. the world is full of women, you have only one life. i value honor more than life. now are you going or do you prefer the sword? you're not of the nobility. i do not fight with such as you.
nobility or no, this is the way we treat cowards like you, ha! ah! this, to me? gods of my ancient house, assist me in this contest to the death. oh, dear, this is no place for me. - oh, i slipped. - now you're vanquished. - but it was an accident. - no, my nobility defeats you! die! stop! stop! when an adversary is on the ground, you should lower your sword. what concern is this of yours? because i am a man of honor. it can't be. signor tonino, dear friend. ssshh, do not mention my name. come, signor bully, and apply yourself to me. but i have no quarrel with you. why do you want to fight me? because you have insulted my friend. you threatened a man on the ground. you tell him he is to die. raise your sword. no, dear friend. don't endanger yourself for me. oh, please, it is a trifle. impertinence! you've questioned my honor, shamed the honor of my ancestors.
that's true. what will grandmama say, "rock-a-bye-baby?" what will daddy say about his great, big cowardly son? here i am. bravo. take courage. ah, i'm unarmed. you're disarmed, and that's enough for me. i don't kill you. i don't say die. it's enough for my honor to have beaten you. i'll have my revenge. anytime, whenever you wish. you'll see. you'll see. dear friend, how very much i am obliged to you. think nothing of it. now, beatrice, where is she?
beatrice? i'd best dissemble. who is this beatrice? why, the girl i helped to escape from venice. the girl i asked you to look after until i arrived. - friend, i've seen no one. - what? i mean it. i've not seen this woman you speak of. i see. ah, well. and i thought i had found a faithful woman at last. but it appears she has made a fool of me. so that's that. one word more, friend, don't call me tonino. - i don't want to be recognized. - ah. call me zanetto. ah. why zanetto? because i have a twin brother who lives in bergamo who's called that and he's very like me in looks. people will think i am he. and in that way, i will avoid any danger. and this brother of yours, does he still live in bergamo? i believe so. we've never been on friendly terms. i've heard he's getting married, though i don't know where or who to.
he's the world's biggest ass. my house is at your disposal, friend, if you care to honor it. my dear fellow. though, to tell the truth, my father doesn't like seeing people. oh, i see. well, think nothing of it, my dear friend. i'll put up here at this inn. oh, i'm extremely sorry. but do come, i mean-- i didn't mean that. i meant--oh. oh, yes, yes, i deserve these reproaches. but my love for beatrice hardens my heart. what's important is that tonino leaves, but beatrice stays here with me. i'll do anything to get hold of that rare beauty. i owe tonino my life and i do everything, everything except deprive myself of beatrice. [music] she gave me a slap.
therefore, she doesn't like me. but my mother used to give me slaps and she loved me. you, young man, where are you going? i'm going to see my sweetheart. she who slapped your face for you. certainly, the very same. and you are going resolved to be reconciled with her and to marry her. excellent. you've guessed it. poor young man, i'm very sorry for you. what's that? you are on the edge of a precipice. i am? oh, if only you knew the real meaning of marriage. marriage is a chain which binds a man fast like a slave to the galleons. - marriage? - marriage. marriage. marriage is a weight, it weighs down your mind.
it weighs down your purse, it weighs down your spirit, and it weighs down your body. oh, good heavens. that's terrible. and the woman who seems so beautiful and kind, oh, you'd never believe what she really is. oh, my dear sir. what is she? those eyes so brilliant are two flames of fire come to scorch you and burn you. her eyes, two flames of fire? her mouth is a vase of venom, which slowly insinuates its poison through your ears, through your heart and kills you. her mouth, a vase of venom? and when a woman comes to embrace you, she is a demon, come to drag you down to hell. get her away from me. oh, think it over and think well. i have been, and thought. - no more women. - no more women. - no more marriage. - no more marriage.
oh, how you will bless me for my advice. heaven sent you to me. you may kiss my hand. oh, beloved one. oh, blessed one. - women. - oh! - marriage? - eeee! - never more. - never more. - certain? - absolutely. well done. excellent. excellent. [music] well, here we are at last in the beautiful city of verona. here, tell me, old chap. have you heard of signor zanetto bisognosi? no. i don't know him. i've never heard of him. well, he's my master. he's come from bergamo to verona to get married, huh? he's to have the lady. i'm to have her maid. i've just arrived with his things, but i don't know where he's lodged. verona is a big place. you'll have trouble finding him.
thanks, you're very helpful. ssshh, if this isn't him, now. ssshh. strange, i could learn nothing of beatrice. is it possible she has been false to me? watch. [music] what is it, sir? what do you want? who are you? the fool, he doesn't know me. you here, what do you want with me? we'll see what this flying cock looks like without his feathers. hey, stop! stop! don't you recognize me? who are you? i don't know you. what? you don't know me? no, sir. i do not know you. the city air must have affected his mind. now, you'll know me. take these things. oh, do you know me now? what beautiful jewels. what is this? so, do you know me? no, sir. i do not know you.
oh. well, we'll try again. here's the money. well, do you know me now? a purse full of money. no, sir, i do not know you. well, there's the trunk as well. and if you don't me now, to hell with you. even with this trunk, i still don't know you. are you mad or drunk? it is you who are mad or drunk. none of these things are mine. the jewels, the money, the trunk. they're what you ordered me to bring you here. now, where are you lodging? at that inn. you want me to take the trunk in. you do what you like with it. but you don't know me. i do not know you. confounded idiot. i am going into the inn. i am putting the trunk in your bedroom.
have a good sleep. and when the effects of the drink have worn off, heh heh heh, you'll know me. [music] the jewels, the money. your servant, signor zanetto. oh, oh, yes. you want me? yes, sir. you are signor zanetto bisognosi, are you not? yes, that is i, at your service. all the better if she takes me for zanetto. if you please, sir, my mistress would like to speak with you. oh, what beautiful jewels the signor zanetto has. ha ha, i understand. someone's seen the jewels from that house and she's been sent as an ambassador. i suppose they're for the signorina rosaura. she is your mistress? my mistress, signore. mm-hmm. you could be right. it depends on whether they suit her. oh, i'm sure they will.
she's such a beautiful young lady. bravo. she's doing well for a procuress. tell me, how do i have to pay? in what connection? concerning the money. what money? aha, it's the jewels that are the attraction. so she's rich then, your mistress. well, she's a doctor's daughter. a doctor's daughter? why, yes. didn't you know that? tell me, is there no danger of the doctor saying something if he sees me in the house? he also wants you to come. good heavens. the whole family are in it. i don't want to land myself in trouble. listen to me, my girl. tell your mistress i'll come another time. no, no, signore. she wants you to come at once. oh, master. here is signor zanetto. i am trying to persuade him to come into the house. come along now, signor zanetto. my daughter is waiting for you.